David Drucker/Staff Writer
The men’s basketball team was eliminated from the Conference USA Tournament on Thursday in a 71-83 defeat to the University of Texas at El Paso Miners. The loss comes on the second day of the event after senior guard Dennis Mavin hit a half-court buzzer-beater to down the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners 57-54 in the first round.
Although the Miners gained as much as a 20-point lead in the second half, the Panthers were in the thick of the competition early on. UTEP jumped out to an advantage when Washburn and Morris scored back-to-back three pointers in the first half. Florida International University went into halftime down 33-47.
The Miners opened up the second half on a similar note when they built their lead to 20 points. FIU would mount a small comeback when Head Coach Anthony Evans substituted in senior guard Porcher Jiminez and freshman forward Hassan Hussein. UTEP kept its foot on the throttle, however, and did not allow FIU to close the gap within ten points. The 71-83 decision broke FIU’s three-game winning streak.
Before the Panthers fell to UTEP, they went toe-to-toe with UTSA in the first round of the tournament. FIU led for the majority of the second half, but the Roadrunners slowly closed the deficit until Keon Lewis – who dropped a game-high 23 points to defeat the Panthers in the regular season – drained a three pointer to tie the game up at 54-54 with less than three seconds remaining. In FIU’s greatest moment of the year, Mavin drained a half-court buzzer beater over two defenders to steal the 57-54 win in regulation. The play earned Sports Center’s number one spot in their top-ten highlight reel for the day.